It is that Dumb Idea of the Year Award time again, and among the many stellar contenders, one in particular stands out.
The diplomatic convention in Great Britain is that new ambassadors present themselves at the Court of St James. There they meet representatives of the monarch and are officially recognized as representing their state in the UK. So it would be interesting to consider even just the earliest ramifications of the British Independent newspaper contributor Vadim Nikitim getting his way. This is the genius who last week bypassed all those tedious arguments over whether or not ISIS constitutes a state, and proposed not only that we treat it as such but that it is also time to grant ISIS diplomatic recognition.
Mr. Nikitim's argument was that pariah states can be brought in to the international system through such measures, as U.S. President Barack Obama presumably imagines he is doing with Iran. Nikitim invites us to consider the precedent of the USSR. And rather than realizing that the USSR collapsed because its economic system caused it to collapse, Nikitim seems to think that the Soviet Union fell apart because countries such as the US and UK recognized it diplomatically -- demonstrating that there is no better way to get the present wrong than by getting the past wrong. He argues,
"Only by recognising and treating ISIS as a bona fide state can we hope to understand its workings and motivations... Only by accepting reality and extending diplomatic recognition to ISIS can the West hope to gain a credible means to moderate and constrain its further advance. The Soviet scenario is now the least worst option: it is time to forge a long peace with militant Islam."
"Only"? Ah, yes, we can all can see how splendidly recognition "moderated" the Third Reich, North Korea and Sudan, just for a sampling. As the columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady wrote last week on the first anniversary of Cuba's recognition by the United States: "Thousands of arrests, migrants flee and Russia wants in. Sound familiar?"
It must certainly be hoped that if Nikitim's advice is followed, that there are cameras present at the Court of St. James for the arrival of the first ISIS emissary. Every last detail of the meeting would be worth capturing for posterity.
Who might ISIS send? Middle Eastern protocol would ordinarily demand that the ambassador is a close relative of the ruler of the state in question. Does Caliph al-Baghdadi have a first cousin he might ship over? What about using the posting to address the common question of what to do with the third son -- the sort who has been drifting a bit, showing too much interest in girls and not enough in the family business? A London stint could be just the answer.
The reception ceremony might be a useful moment to explain certain "rules of the road" in Britain. Though a delicate matter, years of courtly experience should help ease things along. It is perfectly possible, for instance, that the ISIS ambassador will think that you can get away with absolutely anything in the UK. For instance, anyone who remembers the case of Saudi prince Saud bin Abdulaziz Bin Nasir might have got the impression that you can rape and beat a manservant, treat him like an animal, make him sleep on the floor and then even kill him in a 5-star London hotel and get away with only the lightest of sentences. It would have to be explained to ISIS's ambassador that you can only get away with such behaviour in London if you are a grandson of the Saudi King, or from a country with an equally long and decorous diplomatic history. Ambassadors from ISIS, on the other hand, will need to prove themselves somewhat, and first funnel many lucrative contracts our way before behaviour like this becomes acceptable.
If by this point the ISIS ambassador is feeling at his ease, he might make some inquiries of his own. How many non-Muslim women will he be allowed to enslave during his stay? How large are the Kurdish and Yazidi populations of the UK? When people talk about getting "smashed" and "off their heads" in London these days, does it mean quite what he thinks it means? What about getting stoned? By this point, the slightly sly and shifty look on the new ambassador's face may well have transformed into something altogether more trusting and a new "special relationship" have got underway.
Between a system which allows gay people to marry and one which throws them of buildings, there is bound to be some compromise. Between a group which destroys Middle Eastern culture and one which carefully preserves it in museums across its cities, there is certain to be some common ground.
Of course, the nightmare hurdle of the protocol at state dinners will still lie ahead. It is hard enough keeping the Iranian ambassador apart from the Israeli ambassador when the line-up is done alphabetically (thank God for Ireland). But it might be necessary to keep the ISIS ambassador in another room if he discovers there is an actual Jew present. The new ambassador's incessant demands for everyone else to "convert or die" could be smoothed over by the interventions of the Queen's footmen, who are past masters at delicately alerting visitors if they are using the wrong knife for the fish-course. The request of the ISIS ambassador to bring his own knife to state banquets will have to be handled carefully of course, as will the question of where to hide the Queen's dogs when the ISIS ambassador is in the house.
Of course, there is always that pesky, squirrelly problem: What if militant Islam (or Iran) does not want to "forge a long (or short) peace" with us? Is there a Plan B?
But once all these negligible diplomatic hillocks are navigated, there is no reason why the Independent's columnist may not be proven right and the "long peace with militant Islam" can finally start.